Every day, workers all over the United States are exposed to potential hazards and dangers in the workplace. For instance, construction workers typically must perform their duties around heavy machinery, heavy equipment, and hazardous materials. Accidents in the workplace can range from mild to severe. A severe injury can alter the course of the worker’s life and their family dynamics.
Under North Carolina’s Worker’s Compensation Act, a worker is entitled to receive compensation for injuries sustained while performing their duties. In this article, our Charlotte workplace injury attorneys will explain how a process called “mediation” can help a worker obtain compensation in North Carolina.
What Happens During Workers’ Comp Mediation?
To understand what happens in the mediation process you need to know what the mediation process is. In general terms, mediation is an informal meeting where all the parties involved in a worker’s compensation claim discuss a compensation amount to solve the case. Typically, the mediation process occurs once the injured worker has filed a claim and requested a hearing for their situation.
During the mediation, a mediator – usually a qualified experienced lawyer selected by both parties – explains the implications and rules associated with the mediation process. The mediator cannot make any ruling in a mediation process. The purpose of the mediator is to resolve any disputes between the parties. To do so, he or she will listen to both sides and try to resolve the claim. In the event an agreement is not reached, the mediator will declare an “impasse” between the parties.
Initially, both parties arrive at a designated place each one with their legal representation. Then, the rules of the mediation process are discussed, and the lawyers from both sides state their position regarding the claim. After a brief statement from both sides, the claimant and insurer will begin a process of “demand” and “offer.” The mediator will talk to both parties to try and solve the dispute.
If at some point, the claimant accepts an offer from the insurer, the dispute is over, and the mediation finishes. However, if no there is no agreement, then the mediator declares an impasse, in which case he or she informs the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC). The NCIC administers the North Carolina workman’s comp program.
What Are The Benefits And Drawbacks Of The Mediation Process?
The mediation process is beneficial for most claims, but may not be the best method for your case. Some of the benefits of mediation include, but are not limited to the following:
Provides a Fast Solution
Usually, the mediation process won’t take as long to reach a conclusion to the case as other processes. Generally, the length of mediation will depend on the severity and extent of a worker’s injury. Negotiations between parties can vary depending on what the claimant demands and what the insurer offers. Nevertheless, mediation is often quicker at closing or settling a case than a hearing.
It’s Not Expensive
Mediation does not require the preparation required for a hearing. Mainly, all the preparation and expense involved in a trial won’t be necessary during a mediation process. Avoiding the paperwork, time and materials often required in a formal hearing, certainly helps in saving money and time.
Unlike court hearings mediations are private. Only the parties involved alongside their respective lawyers and the mediator are present during a mediation process. This can be beneficial to the extent it allows the parties to be more comfortable in a non-adversarial setting.
On the other hand, some of the drawbacks of a mediation process include the following:
It’s Not a Formal Hearing
Despite being a more relaxed environment, mediation lacks some of the benefits a formal hearing offers such as a more controlled and detail-oriented process. This could be bad if you are an injured party looking to have more time and develop your case.
The Final Agreement is Legally Binding
When two parties agree with a mediation process, the accord becomes legally binding. Generally, compensation agreements in mediation are paid in a lump sum. Essentially once you decide on an agreement, you cannot ask for further compensation other than the one agreed on in the negotiation.
That is why it is so important to speak with a workers’ compensation attorney to understand your legal rights and options to pursue the best outcome for your unique case and injury circumstances.
There is No Judge
The mediation process lacks a judge that can see all the evidence brought by both parties and make a final conscious and informed decision. Keep in mind, a mediator is not allowed to render a final verdict; he or she is just a bridge between both parties looking for a swift dispute resolution.
The mediator simply opens the lines of communication and provides legal facts for both parties to reference before making informed decisions about how their mediation comes to a close.
Workers’ Comp Lawyers Serving Charlotte, North Carolina
Filing your worker’s compensation benefits is essential to cover things such as medical expenses and loss of wages. Our Charlotte, NC worker’s compensation lawyer invites you to read on to learn more about the mediation process in North Carolina and what to expect from it. To learn more about your worker’s compensation benefits in a free consultation call the Ramsay Law Firm at (704) 376-1616.